Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line book coverI rarely review books here that aren’t YA, but I enjoyed this one and think some of you might, as well. This is a rare suspense novel set in India (at least it’s rare to me—when I think of suspense, it’s almost always with white characters).

Jai is a nine-year-old Hindu boy in what I think is a slum in a fictional Indian city. He has two good friends, Pari, who’s a girl and smarter than him (though he’d be loathe to admit it), and Faiz, a Muslim boy. Jai is a little obsessed with crime shows and thinks he’d make a great detective. So when a classmate of his goes missing, he takes it upon himself to find out what happened, enlisting Pari and Faiz as his assistants. He feels this is necessary, since the police came, bribed the missing boy’s mom for her one valuable item, a gold chain given to her by her employer, and left promising to do exactly nothing. Bringing the police in is a source of tension for the entire slum, because they are always threatening to raze it, which would obviously make a huge number of people homeless. The three kids start investigating, but before they make much progress, another boy goes missing. Then a girl. As things escalate, so does their investigation, at least until it seems positively impossible.

One of the things I loved the most about the book was the authentic feel of a culture far removed from my every day life. Anappara has lots of details about living in the slum, because it’s all told through the perspective of someone who knows nothing but that (even if he thinks otherwise). There’s even a glossary in the back for all the Indian terms used for things like foods and slang, even though you can generally tell from the context what things are (I mean, not necessarily exactly, but you get the gist). But this really added to the flavor of the book. In general, Jai's voice is very colloquial, with statements like, “I like headstands a lot more than the huff-puff exercises…” so it makes complete sense that he’d be throwing in Indian terms.

Jai is a very annoying little brother to his twelve-year-old sister, even though he thinks she’s the annoying one. It’s interesting to see his perspective in this and everything else, because the reader can see clearly how wrong he is about things, which is often funny. For example, he’s trying to be the boss of his friends, and be the official detective:

“How come you get to be the detective?” Pari asks.

“That’s very true,” Faiz says. “Why can’t you be my assistant?”

“Arrey, what do you know about being a detective? You don’t even watch Police Patrol.”

“I know about Sherlock and Watson,” Pari says. “You two haven’t even heard of them.”

“What-son?” Faiz asks. “Is that also a Bengali name?”

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone looking for a different kind of suspense novel that also touches on social issues in India.

Review: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

A Quiet Girl in a Noisy World book coverI’ve just discovered a new gem in this author/artist. There were moments I was reading this when I thought Tung must have been channeling my thoughts word-for-word. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story is a memoir chronicling Tung’s life from late grad school at the University of Birmingham in England through her first real job. She reflects some on her childhood and basically shows how she came to realize that being shy and very introverted is okay, not something to be ashamed of. Her art style is subdued in black, white, and gray watercolors and I really liked it.

One of the many areas where I especially felt like she and I were on the same wavelength was with books, which she loves (as do I). She goes nowhere without one, even if she knows she won’t be able to read it, because it gives her a sense of comfort and the feeling of a friend by her side. She says:

When I see a book I’ve read and liked on someone else’s bookshelf…

I secretly know we are going to be good friends.

She talks about how emotionally attached she gets to the characters in the books she reads, and how it feels like a relationship has ended when she finishes them. She watches emotional movies so she can have an excuse to cry without judgment.

I also could really relate to the way she seeks meaning in everything and feels the need to constantly be productive in some way. She says:

I always doubt that I’m living up to my full potential.

I should learn a new language every year. Or a new skill. Maybe I can take some classes.

I feel like I should constantly be doing something to improve myself, learning new things, and growing as a person.

When will I know it’s okay to stop?

Perhaps never…

When she is starting to realize she finds her job meaningless, she asks:

I did everything right at work today.

Why do I still feel so empty?

I also expect to find meaning in the things I do, and when work isn’t fulfilling, it’s so draining.

I loved how she conveyed what it’s like to meet new people.

Meeting new people

I’m so uncomfortable that this is pretty much how it is for me, too. Her general discomfort in social situations causes her a lot of stress until she finally accepts herself. She says:

I’m socially awkward and weird.

I’ve always felt like there is something wrong with me. I’ve been like this my whole life.

Sometimes her description of social interactions are so relatable. Here's the aftermath of one:

Aftermath of an awkward conversation

Some of it is kind of funny:

A conversation with a neighbor


Dissertation vs. socializing

Another one that made me laugh was her having to make a phone call for work in front of people:

Using the phone in front of people

I hate calling people I don’t know well, and with people watching... Well. But in all three of these cases, it might make you laugh, but it’s kind of a sad funny.

She doesn’t feel great about herself because of the pressure society puts on introverts to be extraverted. And especially as it relates to shyness—shyness is sort of forgiven in children, but once you’re an adult you’re supposed to have outgrown it and “come out of your shell.” Although she tries to be friendly, how she really feels is:

A mixture of frustration, insanity, and dying on the inside.

She famously overthinks everything, something I can totally relate to. She’s even got a sort of flowchart that shows the thought process she goes through when deciding to go to a social event or not:

Socializing flowchart

I loved how she talks about ”energy level” and how it reflects her ability to deal with social situations and her general emotional state. It’s true for me too that when I’m low on that type of energy, everything is hard to deal with:

Low energy and intensityThe good news is that by the end of the book, she has discovered and accepted her introversion, and no longer beats herself up over it.

Overall, this is an excellent portrayal of the shy introvert’s experience (though not all introverts are shy). It’s very sweet and a little funny at times, but always honest and real to Tung’s experiences. Many people will find this highly relatable, and I think it could even be helpful for some people who can’t relate to it (i.e., extraverts) to learn about the way the other half lives. I’m looking forward to reading her other book, Book Love (how can I not like that, right?).

Review: Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Almost Love book coverAlthough I generally review only YA books here, I’m making an exception this week. Not because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and this book is by an Irish writer, but because Louise O’Neill is one of my favorite authors even though she hasn’t written that many books—I’ve read her other three, all of which are YA (and all of which I’ve reviewed here). Almost Love is about a woman in her mid-twenties and almost has the feel of New Adult, but not quite.

O’Neill is clearly great at creating main characters who aren’t really likable but who you still care about, as she does this in Almost Love like she did in Asking for It. Almost Love tells two parallel stories from Sarah’s life—one when she twenty-four and another three years later. In the “then” timeline, she’s recently graduated from Dublin Art College and is living with some of her buddies from school, including Fionn, who’s basically her best friend in Dublin. She’s from the Tipperary area and has friends back there, but she hardly ever goes home. Fionn is already becoming a semi-famous up-and-coming artist in Ireland and Sarah feels inferior and never works on her art anymore. She’s teaching school art and is still in the party mindset. But then she meets a student’s father and soon they begin a relationship that is doomed from the start, even though she doesn’t see it.

In the “now” timeline, she’s living with her boyfriend Oisín, who’s mother is a very famous and rich artist. Sarah’s still friends with Fionn but we know that she did something horrible in the earlier timeline that has strained their relationship. She also is still unable to make any art even though she’s still teaching it. Sarah was happy with Oisín in the beginning but there are seeds of trouble now and it’s not clear how things will go.

Sarah really isn’t a nice person. She’s self-absorbed and a pretty terrible friend and girlfriend. She’s also clearly a little depressed and feeling inferior to the important people around her, so she’s not a great joy to be around for the reader. However, despite all that, I still really wanted to see how things worked out with her. When she becomes obsessed with the student’s father and lets him mistreat her, I kept wondering if she’d finally see how horrible he is or if he would destroy her in the end. And I really hoped things would work out with Oisín because he seems like a really nice guy.

O’Neill is great at getting into her protagonists’ minds, and she does it here, too. We see Sarah change, and not always in a good way, and understand her bad choices even if we’re screaming at her to make different ones. And of course this is a feminist book, with several good lines that I really like. Here are a couple:

Being admired by him didn’t feel like when other men would look at her, teeth bared as if they wanted to devour her. Smile, love, men would shout as she passed them on the street. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled, as if performance of joy was the price Sarah had to pay for existing in a female body in a public space.


Maybe men didn’t want women to be funny, not the women they were having sex with anyway. Sarah suspected that men wanted a girlfriend to be ‘fun’, which seemed to mean she should find them funny and laugh at their jokes, never making any of her own.

If you’ve read O’Neill’s other work and like it, you should check this one out. It won’t disappoint. And if you’re new to her but like slightly challenging books, you should try it, too.